This site is about transparency and accountability, the two medicines that prevent—or cure—abuse of power. A lack of transparency and accountability has colored each of the three cases outlined below, all of which continue, in one way or another.

Further down, I explain a bit about efforts to bring greater transparency and accountability into Arkansas’s legal system. My hope is to one day see a more open and accountable judiciary throughout the United States.

● The “West Memphis Three” are free from prison, but supporters continue to press for their exoneration. Equally important, lawyers, investigators and citizens are still examining the processes that allowed three innocent teenagers to be convicted of murder. Most important, whoever killed three children in West Memphis, Arkansas in 1993 apparently remains free.

● Kevin Ives and Don Henry, “The Boys on the Tracks,” have been dead now for 25 years. The prosecutor who vowed to solve their murders, which were believed to be drug-related, ended up in prison himself—on drug charges. Investigations still have not revealed who placed the boys’ bodies on railroad tracks to be mutilated by a train, nor have investigators ever revealed the extent of the drug ring that appears to have been behind these and other murders. The scandals surrounding this case run so deep that public demands for disclosure continue.

● I have written no book, but several articles about “The Contaminated Case against Tim Howard.” (http://bit.ly/erjiA2) Howard has spent 13 years on Arkansas’s death row. This year, the state supreme court, noting “apparent” prosecutor misconduct, ordered a hearing to determine whether he will get a new trial. A related appeal is now before the United States Supreme Court, awaiting a response from the state.

● These and other cases have shown me how much bad can happen when parts of a judicial system “go rogue.” Like the executive and legislative branches of government, the judicial branch needs public oversight. Yet most of its proceedings remain out of public view. To be truly “public,” as the Constitution’s Sixth Amendment requires, modern trials should be open to modern media. That means that all courts be equipped with cameras and that video records of all trials should be publicly available.

● Finally, I continue to oppose the Arkansas Supreme Court’s policy of forbidding citizens to speak about complaints filed about judges or lawyers. I consider this policy a violation of the First Amendment. I think it undermines voters’ right to information about candidates for judicial elections. And I view it as an abuse of the court’s power. My civil rights lawsuit in the matter is to be heard by a federal court in December 2013. (http://maraleveritt.com/2012/04/oops-i-did-it-again/)


Spokesman challenges focus on Echols as narcissistic; says article blames victim ‘again’

Marc Perrusquia

Marc Perrusquia

Reporter cites ‘missing element’ in Echols’ new memoir, spokesman argues that article missed key point

Last month, the Commercial Appeal in Memphis published an article about “Life After Death,” the new book by Damien Echols. The piece, titled “Memoir’s Missing Element,” was written by Marc Perrusquia, a reporter who has covered the West Memphis murders since since the discovery of the victims’ bodies in 1993.

In his recent piece, Perrusquia took Echols to task for barely mentioning in his memoir the “odd behavior” that he says kept the attention of police and the public focused on Echols during the murder investigation and subsequent trials. “Yes, there was a degree of ‘satanic panic,’” Perrusquia wrote, “there was hysteria, prejudice, police incompetence, and overreaching prosecution and crime lab blunders.

“But the perfect storm that put Echols on death row includes one critical element he isn’t willing to consider: his own baffling, often frightening behavior.” Perrusquia then recounted details from the record of the case and from his own interviews that paint a picture of Echols as a deeply troubled and narcissistic teen intent on becoming famous.

Lonnie Soury, a media advisor who is part of Echols’ legal team, responded to that article with a letter to the Commercial Appeal that Soury says has not, to his knowledge, been published. Soury provided me with a copy of his letter, which he titled “Finding Answers to an Uncomfortable Truth.” In that he wrote:

“The uncomfortable truth is that the reporter refuses to admit that he and others contributed to the hysteria that led directly to Damien’s death sentence.” However, Soury continued, “Rather than delve into the reasons why three innocent men were imprisoned while the perpetrator of the crime has been allowed to remain in the community, the reporter finds it far more comfortable to blame Damien Echols once again for contributing now to his admittedly wrongful conviction.”

Perrusquia ended his article with questions:

“So, what are we to make of Echols? If he is indeed innocent, as evidence now suggests, Arkansas authorities need to toss out last year’s Alford plea and pay Echols and his co-defendants the millions they deserve. That said, however, it is hard to understand him. For whatever reasons, he diverted valuable attention that might have resolved the murders of three little boys years ago. And for all his newfound articulation, he fails to answer the most critical of questions: Who is he?”

Soury responded:

“I would ask it another way. Who are we? Who are we as a society to allow thousands of men and women to rot in prison wrongfully convicted? Who are we as journalists to blame the victim rather than those responsible for putting him behind bars? Who are we as police, prosecutors, judges, and a community to allow these three men to spend half their lives in prison and be forced to accept a plea deal to get out?”

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